On the day that Andrew Dilnot tries to solve our future care conundrum, Dementia Awareness Week highlights the scale of the challenge. As we live longer, more of us are exposed to the risk of ill health and disablity, needing social and health care for longer and to meet increasingly complex needs. And, as the costs of our pensions rise, working until you're 68 with a parent or parents in their mid 80s or early 90s makes for a very bleak future. Capping the cost of care, promoting old age insurance will help to share the burden, but we will all have to contribute. Is there anything more we can do?
As part of its Dementia and Society programme the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has commissioned a local project to look at whether a city (in this case York) can become 'dementia-friendly'. I will be working through the Dean Knight Partnership as an associate of AESOP consortium to lead the project jointly with Janet Crampton and we will be supported by her colleague Ruth Eley. Both Janet and Ruth were until recently working in the Department of Health on the National Dementia Strategy. My contribution will be to bring local network knowledge and wider public service linkages.
Our focus will be on people with dementia, their carers and families, as well as the people who provide services and facilities to them. We will be asking questions like ' What makes your life easier or more difficult?' 'How do you manage transport?' ' Are shops and restaurants aware of your needs?', as well as trying to identify the best (and not so good) examples of housing, health and social care which could be blueprints for the future. A central feature of the project will be to enable people with dementia and their families to see some of these different examples and to find out what is really important to people as individuals and if there are common themes. We will be working with Innovations in Dementia to capture these views and create an end of project report and event to spread the ideas.
Places are for people - they have meaning, history, associations, but they also need to evolve to meet our changing needs, they need to facilitate and enable us at every age and help us to live together in the best possible way. As much older people become a larger part of the population the business world and commercial interests need to understand this consumer base as much as public services need to provide for their care. Dementia Without Walls is exploratory in nature, it may come up with recommendations and action plans, but as much as anything we hope it will start people thinking in different ways about how the places we live in can help rather than hinder us.
If you have any thought, ideas, contacts, connections or resources we can use or share, please contact me.